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DARE teaches students about making better choices
RUMFORD -- More than 200 people attended the 24th DARE culmination celebration for the Class of 2018 in the Muskie Auditorium at Mountain Valley High School.
Seventy-six fifth graders from schools in Rumford and Mexico graduated Thursday night from the police department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
Led by instructors Sgts. Doug Maifeld and Tracey Higley, the 90-minute program featured guest speaker Walter Abbott, a part-time Rumford resident and retired professor, football coach and athletic director at the Univ. of Maine at Orono.
He urged the students to be strong in subsequent years when faced with temptations to do drugs and crime, to have the courage to know right and wrong and to say "no."
"When classmates look at you, what do you want them to see? Be a friend, a good worker; learn to help people. Do the right thing and you'll have their respect," said Abbott.
Addressing the parents, Abbott noted, "It starts at home. You have to be role models. Have open conversations with your children. Get up and get out and do things. That means you parents as well."
"Have open conversations with your young men and women. In fact, the average time spent for an adult, a parent, with their children, one on one from middle school up is about 15 minutes. That's sad. So, parents, take time and sit down and talk with them."
"A family is a lot like a football team," said Abbott. "You've got your coaches, which are you parents, and your players, who are your children, a good representation of which are here tonight. And to have a good team, to have good success, coaches need to praise and offer positive feedback to their players. To have success, you need to give praise and positive feedback and make them feel good."
To the students, he said "Every day, get up and say 'I'm going to help someone' and make people proud to know me and proud to have me as a friend."
In addition, four students -- Jacob Sinclair, Abbie Blauvelt, Ashlynn Conley and Hailey Akers -- shared their "Taking a Stand" essays.
Sinclair noted, "I really feel that DARE has showed me the rights and wrongs of life and how some people can end up on the wrong road, other people will then follow them. I've learned in DARE that you shouldn't just go to a place that you know is bad and that you should always define, assess, respond and evaluate the situation."
Blauvelt urged all to be confident and assertive, but respectful when saying no to someone offering drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
"What you should do is look them in the eye and say, 'No, I don't want it.' That is respecting both people's rights. It's called confident and assertive," she said.
Conley said DARE, to her, means "to make better choices in your life and make sure you know what dangers can not only happen to you, but can happen to people around you."
"How do you know someone's really your friend? They stand by your side, they help you, they don't make fun of you. But the number one reason is that they like the way you are and you don't have to change everything," she said.
Akers wrote about the dangers of drugs, the right path to follow, how to live your life right drug-free, and how alcohol and smoke can affect other people.
She said they learned about nine ways to be in charge. Those are avoiding the situation, strength is numbers, walking away, cold shoulder, saying "no," giving a reason or fact, changing the subject, a skipping CD (saying the same thing over and over), and using humor.
For their efforts -- including their courage to read their essays before the audience -- Maifeld presented them with an essay pin and a DARE backpack.
In addition, "Self Esteem" license plate winners were announced. They were Alyssa Akers, Brenna Myles, Michael-Paul Arsenault and Ryan Perkins.
Also in attendance were local state representatives Sheryl Briggs and Matt Peterson.
Honor Guard members from the Rumford Police Department and Oxford County Sheriff's Department presented the colors.
Members of the Explorer Troop 364 helped with the setup of the event.
The culmination concluded with the traditional slide show, featuring pictures taken of students during the DARE instruction.
Maifeld told the students from the Class of 2018, "You have the power within yourselves. Hopefully, you'll remember that every day of your lives."
Maifeld said their DARE program is funded strictly from donations. "The Town of Rumford makes it possible for me going into the schools and I appreciate it. However, no taxpayer money is budgeted for the program. We have done fundraisers over the years. We receive money from suspects in drug cases, money from the Elks and Eagles most years and the Mexico Police Department budgets $500 a year for supplies for the program."
"This is my 18th year of DARE, personally. I feel every day I step into a classroom I have the same love of it as the first time. For that I thank my DARE Students. Every week they enjoy my fun and unpredictable way of teaching the material thus making it an enjoy teaching it," he said.
Guest speaker Walter Abbott urged the students to be strong in subsequent years when faced with temptations to do drugs and crime, to have the courage to know right and wrong and to say "no." (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
Many of the 76 fifth graders from schools in Rumford and Mexico who graduated from the police department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program are seen trying to catch one of the free frisbees thrown their way during the evening. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
The students reading their "Taking a Stand" essays were, from left, Abigail Blauvelt, Ashlynn Conley, Jacob Sinclair and Hailey Akers. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
After receiving their certificates of achievements from their teachers, the fifth graders are congratuled by the local police officers. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)